GULBARGA: Malnutrition continues to haunt Gulbarga district, with a survey conducted in June classifying one in five children below six as ‘moderately underweight’.
The Justice N K Patil Committee studied malnutrition among children below six and submitted a report to the government six months ago, but the situation here continues to be alarming. The Departments of Health and Women and Child Welfare conducted a joint survey in the last week of June, and found 21.4 per cent of those below six moderately underweight.
According to records available with Express, 2,68,300 children attending anganwadis were weighed. Of them, 2,09,523 were found normal, 57,020 moderately underweight and 1,757 severely underweight.
Gulbarga District Health Officer Dr Shivaraj Sajjanashetty says many factors in Gulbarga cause weight deficiency among children.
A survey indicates that child marriages are rampant in the district and form a shocking 25 per cent of all marriages. Children born from minor mothers are naturally weak, he said. Pregnant women living below the poverty line are not nourished and their babies inherit their weakness.
A survey conducted by the Health Department found that the percentage of women breastfeeding children below six months is good in Gulbarga district. But mothers below the poverty line cannot provide nutritious food to children who cross the six-month landmark, Sajjanashetty opined.
In the recent drive, 4,287 children outside anganwadis in rural areas were weighed and 2,553 were found normal and 1,734 moderately underweight.
In urban areas, 32,429 children were weighed and 24,574 were found normal, 7,830 moderately underweight and 25 severely underweight. Of the 3,10,555 children weighed in Gulbarga district, 66,584 children (21.4 per cent) were found moderately underweight and 1,782 severely underweight.
The strength of moderately underweight children is high in Gulbarga Urban, with 15,871 children moderately underweight and 373 severely underweight, followed by Aland (10,173 moderately underweight and 96 severely underweight) and Sedam (8,871 moderately underweight and 185 severely underweight).
Gulbarga-Rural had 7,935 moderately underweight and 406 severely underweight children, followed by Chittapur (7,862 moderately underweight and 302 severely underweight), Jewargi (6,926 moderately underweight and 101 severely underweight), Afzalpur (6,738 moderately underweight and 148 severely underweight) and Chincholi taluk (2208 moderately underweight and 171 severely underweight). Of these 1,782 severely underweight children, 71 were medically ill.
Dr Sajjanashetty said the government had taken care of all severely underweight children by treating them at the primary health centres. “Fifty-four children are being treated by paediatricians. Seven have been admitted to Bala Sanjivini Hospitals and 22 to the Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre in Gulbarga,” he said.
The government is taking the problem of underweight children seriously, said Deputy Director of the department Ramakrishna Padannavar. He denied the charge that food and milk being supplied to the anganwadis were not reaching children.
“We take care to provide nutritious food and milk. Children are additionally given 15 gram of milk powder three times a week. The department has not received any complaints about non-availability of food or milk,” he said. All children in anganwadis and all children below three outside the anganwadis were being given food and milk, he said.
Severely underweight children get egg three times in a week, Padannavar said.
Parents have to take care of the children. The support being given by the government is only supplementary, he said.
‘It’s Govt’s Duty’
Janawadi Mahila Sanghatane president Neela K said children were not getting enough food. She urged the government to provide three meals to children below the poverty line, as their parents are in no position to feed them.
According to a Central government survey, 70 per cent of the population earns only `20 a day, she said.
Neela alleged a racket in the supply of food and milk powder. “The government should conduct a high-level inquiry across the state,” she urged.
Condemned for life
Malnourished children will never be able to grow normally even if fed with the right food later.
Experts say malnourished children may survive if given correct nutrition, but restoration of healthy growth is not possible. That is because the microbial population in their guts remains immature.
A study by scientists from Bangladesh and the United States compared the microbial populations between healthy children in an urban slum in Dhaka in Bangladesh and came to these conclusions.
Types of Malnutrition
There are two types of malnutrition, say experts.
Protein-energy malnutrition: Chronic protein-energy malnutrition is manifested by stunting, which means short height or length for age. Stunting occurs as a result of lack of food or a long-persisting illness.
Acute protein-energy malnutrition is the term used to cover both moderate and severe wasting and nutritional oedema, which is swelling of parts of the body due to fluid building up in the tissues (also known as kwashiorkor). Acute protein-energy malnutrition occurs as a result of a recent lack of nutrients or illness.
Micronutrient malnutrition or deficiency: A child whose diet lacks the recommended amounts of essential vitamins and minerals can develop micronutrient malnutrition. The child may not be eating enough of the recommended amounts of specific vitamins (such as vitamin A) or minerals (such as iron).